Friday, January 13, 2012

Brick Walls and Sledge Hammers

I posted a month ago about dead horses can't gallop. It was about knowing when your story is dead. But what if your story isn't totally dead and cremated ashes? What do you do then? Maybe your muse is at an all time low? Maybe your real life has been so chaotic that you can't see the forest for the trees? Maybe you've hit your head on your desk one too many times and killed off brain cells?

The writing brick wall otherwise known as writer's block, writing yourself into a corner, or a host of other things which keep your story from moving forward to its conclusion and you are at a loss on how to fix it.

You can sit and look at your monitor or blank piece of paper or you can doodle, type the same words over and over again just to see something on the page. Something is ALWAYS better than NOTHING, right? Well sort of...

I used to think that just writing random words on a page would be the sledge hammer against the brick wall. Sometimes, you just need to forget about the story and put it aside. Do something else for a while (an hour, day, week) if you are a normally creative being. Everything gets stale over time, think of the loaf of bread sitting on your counter growing your own penicillin.

When your body or emotions are stretched to the max, be kinder to yourself...let it go. Sleep the extra three or four hours your body needs to recoup or allow yourself time to get your emotions back on the right track. Trying to push either of these things into a creative stream is hopeless and pointless. You will only serve to hurt yourself and prolong the agony you are already in.

First Draft Stage- Keep in mind this is the first draft. It DOES NOT have to be perfect. It doesn't have to be coherent. It does not have to be grammatically correct. It's like drawing a picture- first you sketch in a rough idea. Later you will add details which will make the art come to life. Only on television does someone try to paint a picture with a house painting brush and I guarantee you sooner or later the artist is going to pull out a regulation set of artist brushes for the finer details.

Second Draft- Now, you fix all those little things like details, major grammatical errors. You flesh out your characters (giving them CPR). You find out what works and what doesn't work. How do you fix something that doesn't work? Well you write, crumple and trash, and write, crumple and trash, until you get it right. If after a period of time it still isn't right, delete it. Realize sometimes a patch job on a wall is just that a patch job and it will never be as great as the original. (See dead horses can't gallop)

Editing-I know, I have read and reread your scene or manuscript a hundred times trying to get it right. You've read it aloud and know that it doesn't read right or at least not the way you wanted it to. Take a step back and enlist help from others. Let others be the fresh set of eyes your story needs to make it right, but keep in mind this is still your story and anything offered is an opinion. Even if it's from your tenth grade English teacher or your family.

Okay so now you are stumped. You've tried everything to get yourself motivated to write and failed. You are emotionally and physically sound. You've read articles, books, and series on how to defeat writer's block and still you can't recover to write a sentence in your new work. Give up, you are trying too hard.

Do something else. Forget about the story, the writing, the grammar, the errors. Go play golf, go swimming, go to the beach, or pull weeds in your garden...anything but writing. For me, I do home improvement projects. I'll paint walls, build cabinets or book shelves, or just clip coupons. I'll go shopping which I personally detest. I know...I'm woman, but I can't help it. Get a hair cut. Buy a tube of lipstick in a color you haven't bought before. Now guys, change this to aftershave or something manly. I don't want to see you in lipstick. Images of a drag queen like Ru Paul are dancing my brain at the thought.

The point is FORGET about the writing. Something will snap in your brain while you aren't thinking about your story. A light bulb WILL turn on and voila! You will have your fix.

Most times, writers are THEIR OWN worse enemy. Writer's block is like male impotency. The more you think about it the bigger the problem becomes.

As a writer, you are a creative being. As a creative being, you are susceptible to this. You push and push past the point of exhaustion (or at least I do). I'll forget to eat right, sleep, and bounce in my chair until my eyeballs turn yellow before leaving my computer when the writing is going well. It all takes a toll.

A helpful hint while you are writing when the writing is good...stop writing in the middle of the scene or start writing the next chapter before you stop writing. Even if you hit that brick wall afterwards you are not facing a blank page. You will be able to read what you wrote and use it to spur on your creativity.

I will critique and edit other author's works when I really hit my head against the wall. Sometimes, it helps get your own creative juices flowing in the proper direction. NO ONE IS CREATIVE ALL THE TIME. If they were it would be exhausting! Remember, if you are in your box of uncreativity, no amount of pounding on the walls with a sledge hammer will work. There is no sure fire fix. Every writer is an unique individual, but not alone in this struggle. What works for one may not work for another. Give yourself time.

Keep writing and loving the Lord.


  1. Writing is a very emotional experience. At least it should be. Sometimes our emotions are so caught up in our day to day life that there is nothing of us left to pour into our story. At that point you just have to fix whatever it is in real life and free yourself up for the muse.

  2. I'm at the second draft stage of the latest novel... so much to slash and burn!
    I keep writing down shiny new ideas as they come, though. I don't want to go through a dry spell ever again - had it once for a few years and I felt so *empty*.

  3. Writer's Block has a way of working into your soul as a writer. Never fun.


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